Translucent Canopy Creates Focal Point for New Conference Facility

Named in honor of America’s armed forces, Freedom Center in Huntsville, Alabama, contributes to the current revitalization of its area. Integrating renovation and new construction, the Center features a new state-of-the-art conference facility designed by the Huntsville firm of Matheny Goldmon Architecture + Interiors.

The new conference facility connects two existing buildings which date back to the 1980s and have undergone extensive renovation. These buildings house the headquarters for Freedom Real Estate & Capital LLC, a commercial real estate investment firm, and Torch Technologies, which provides research, development and engineering services for the Department of Defense.

As the connecting element, the 13,000-square-foot Freedom Center Conference Facility is obviously the focal point, and the architects wanted to enhance it as the primary entrance. They achieved this with a translucent canopy 75’6” long by 9’6” deep, engineered by Duo-Gard using its Series 3800 Long-Span System.

“Duo-Gard designed this system to free-span larger distances with fewer structural components, thus providing a cost savings to the customer,” says engineer Frank Kosciolek, architectural services operations manager. “And it has the flexibility that allows us to easily achieve unusual shapes, such as the wedge-shaped glazing panels for the Center.”

For the Center’s canopy, the system integrated 25mm triplewall polycarbonate in an opal tint with clear anodized aluminum framing. A slight curvature allows it to follow the bend in the street, further defining the entrance. Water management by Duo-Gard included gutters and downspouts.

“This translucent canopy reflects modern design as well as allowing light transmittance,” says Marc Goldmon, principal-in-charge, project manager and designer. “The light weight of the polycarbonate helped accommodate our steel structure cost effectively.”

Despite its light weight, the multiwall polycarbonate is virtually shatterproof, yet weighs 1/6 as much as glass, while delivering high-quality diffused light.

Architect Goldmon says this is the first time he’s worked with translucent polycarbonate: “I’m happy with the result, and the owner likes it.”

Project collaborators included Turner Construction, general contractor.